First published in The Chariot, Feb 2011
My life has not been easy. The reality is that being stuck in a body that doesn’t always do what I want it to, makes every day life hard. Frankly I do not believe that my life would be worth living if it were not for the team of people that my mom has found and coached over the years. Just like a sports team, all the members of the team rely on each team member doing it’s best including me.
Recently I had to take a test that was proctored. I knew the test material, but I was extremely nervous because I had never taken a test with the newest “Jeremy Team” player, my support person Laura. Really I should have tried to explain to Laura and the proctor why I was uncomfortable, but I got stuck in my body, so I had trouble controlling my motor movements to point accurately to the letters on my keyboard or letter board and so I failed the test.
The Team Jeremy coach (mom) said, “It’s ok, but now you know why I want you to practice and to wear your glasses for typing. It’s your choice. But remember, the more you practice the more your muscles develop motor memory and better movement initiation. You know your eye hand coordination and eye convergence gets better with practice too.”
Frankly, if I don’t practice, I am letting “Team Jeremy” down, because when you are part of a team, you must do your best. I will practice but I will also make sure my teammate Laura asks me if I have anything to tell or ask the proctor in terms of my testing accommodations. Nicely, when people are non-verbal sometimes others around forget to talk directly to them.
The day I failed the test, I was invited to speak to 22 members of a college softball team. I talked about how team members have to be able to count on each other. One of my former Team Jeremy members, Dusty, is now a graduate student at the Southern Oregon University and he is a also the assistant coach to the woman’s softball team. He invited me to speak to them.
I told them (with the help of my talking iPad), “Needing a team of people in order to reach my goals is a fact of life for me. I am dependent on others for most of my needs to be met. Being a part of my team means that a person agrees to work with the others to help me reach my goals. This takes practice to be the best we can while watching out for the others so we can do the best possible. I know you lost your games today, but did you play your best and did you watch out for each other? That is what a team player does.”
Then I talked about having to overcome the obstacle of having autism. The softball coach asked how I got over some major challenges to get where I am today. I told her that you must just keep on picking yourself up when you hit a wall.
A couple days later I wrote an email and asked Dusty and one of the softball team players about challenges they had faced and how they had overcome them. The player replied, ”my biggest obstacle that I’ve had to overcome was the loss of my grandma. I was in denial for a long time on how greatly it affected me, but I had to go and talk to therapists and actually ask for help and talk things out. I never was one to do that so for me to openly say I needed help was really hard. My parents weren’t my best source
for help because we never talk about things like this, but if it wasn’t for my therapist I would still be in the downward spiral that I fell into after her death… There is a reason why there are people to talk to, because some things just are too big to handle.”
My former Jeremy Team player, Dusty wrote that, “I remember facing the obstacle of trying to decide if moving down to San Diego from living at my parent’s house in LA was a good idea. I really struggled with the possibility; if I stayed at home I could save money by living with my parents, and if I moved it would be more expensive but would be a new experience. My parents were, and always have been, supportive of me and my decisions. Yet it was a friend’s mom that really influenced me most. She said in the long run, if it didn’t work out, it really wouldn’t be that big of a deal….. I would suggest people to analyze what they believe as ‘truths. Having the ability to tease out the difference between what you believe and what you have been conditioned to believe will allow you to achieve the things that YOU want in life.”
Really, talking to a therapist and believing in your own truths is very good advice. Only sometimes when you are physically dependent on others it is really hard. You know that overcoming challenges is necessary for your sanity. Luckily I have team Jeremy to help me reach my goals. Frankly, my mom is a great coach but it is the whole Team Jeremy that makes it possible for me to overcome the obstacles I face.